Last week the Multnomah community lost a friend and fellow servant. Khen Tuang was killed in an automobile accident on Thursday, July 28, along with his friend Peter. Khen’s wife and daughter were also in the car accident and survived. Peter, a refugee from Myanmar, tragically lost his wife in a Thai refugee camp in 2008 — the couple’s three children are now orphaned.
Khen was part of the Global Development and Justice (MAGDJ) program at Multnomah University and was loved by his peers in cohort 3. He was from the Zomi ethnic group (generally known as hills people/tribe throughout Northwestern Myanmar) in the Chin state of Myanmar (Burma). Khen graduated from Bible College in Myanmar and was active in his local church. He had a passion to see peoples’ lives transformed through faith in Christ and community development work.
Khen was all in. He was fully committed to returning to Myanmar in order to serve those who suffered in his community. Khen was passionate about seeing everyone reach their full potential as people who have been made in the image of God.
This past year, while researching child poverty in Myanmar, he wrote, “The Bible commends us to take care of the oppressed, vulnerable and the poor. We, as a church, need to help eradicate, holistically, from a biblical perspective, child poverty, while we nurture and feed those who are hungry and provide shelter to the homeless.” Khen’s research and the topics he covered were often focused on those who were marginalized, such as refugees living in Portland and children living in poverty.
Khen also had a keen eye for research even in a language that was not native to him. This past semester here at MU in Applied Field Research, Khen flourished as he learned and applied common development research tools to help the Zomi refugee community succeed in transitioning to life in America. Working with a local Zomi congregation (along with pastor Muana Khuptong, a Multnomah Biblical Seminary alumnus), Khen formed a research group with a Guatemalan student and a South Sudanese student. Together they rose to the task of adapting these complex research tools to help identify resources and needs that are common to refugees moving to the Portland area. Over a 15-week period of time, they met with several refugees and developed a plan to provide additional support to this community.
Khen also loved his family. Even before he arrived in Portland, Khen told me that his family would not be able to join him during his first year of studies. As we discussed this, he communicated that it was going to be difficult for him, but that he would work out a plan so his wife and daughter could join him after the first year. And he did just that. Just a week before the accident that took his life, Khen —grinning — walked into my office with his wife Huai and daughter ZemZem. We talked about their plans as a family, and he asked me to pray for them, as he often did. As we were standing there, Khen removed his sandals and knelt down on the carpet with his wife and 2-year-old daughter following. I knelt with them and prayed a prayer of blessing over their sweet family. As they left my office, Khen, like he often did, thanked me profusely for the prayer. He was always so grateful.
Khen’s peers have taken it upon themselves to raise funds in order to help Huai and ZemZem as they face some difficult challenges ahead. Visit their GoFundMe site for an opportunity to support them during this painful time.
We are grateful to have known you, Khen. The world is different because of you.